Thursday, 5 March 2009

Transformer UK Comics - Space Pirates

I must confess that this was probably the collection I was looking least forward to reviewing, but upon re-reading it found that it contained some of the strongest stories in the UK run, the highlight of course, being 'Salvage'. With a pair of short stories set in the present day continuing the Galvatron plot, and then the main event, Space Pirates, there are plenty of touches to keep even the most hardened cynic happy.
Salvage begins with two Mechanoids being dredged from the River Thames - namely Megatron and Centurion (how they got there is covered in the Transformers / Action Force crossover, and I have a feeling rights issues means it can't be reprinted, sadly enough). Hilariously enough though, it is a certain Richard Branson doing the dredging. Bless him and his little smile!

Of course, Shockwave has other plans. Looking for a weapon he can use against Galvatron, he steals back Megatron himself and has a psychoprobe attempt to snap him out of his cataconic state, a task involving sending Megatron into his own nightmares, facing both Prime and Straxus.

Meanwhile, a group of Autobots have finished digging Ultra Magnus out of the volcano where he was imprisoned. But Magnus has completely cracked from his experience of being buried alive, and even worse, they then run into Galvatron. As I have said before, the poor guy gets NO breaks!

This is where it takes a turn for the GENIUS, since Furman spends the next issue just counterpointing Magnus's and Megatron's struggles, giving both of them a heroic air, in their own ways, and showing how similar they are. And you can't help but feel sorry for Megatron, even if he is a bad guy.

The next story, Wrecking Havoc, is also quite cool. Cyclonus and Scourge are fed up with being stuck in the present, and wanting to return to the future have tracked down their old commander, Galvatron in an attempt to get his time jump trigger. At the same time, the elite squad of Autobots known as the Wreckers are preparing to jump in and capture Galvatron... but Galvatron has chosen the meeting place in the middle of a populated area!

As an aside, the warp jump technology does look very cool, even if the issue is just an excuse for a big fight. But it is a good fight! And one drawn by Bryan Hitch, even if it wasn't his finest hour.

And now to the main feature, Space Pirates.

Because half the comic was US reprints, Furman was constrained a lot of the time. Especially when the US team did really really odd things, such as a very badly written and drawn throwaway story called 'The Big Broadcast of 2006' set in the future with Prime and Galvatron. This presented a problem since along with being irredeemably rubbish, Galvatron was in the present in UK continuity.

Enter: Furman's genius, he turned a curse into a blessing. What better way to present this as a comedy tale by Wreck-Gar, who has been captured and interrogated by the Quintessons.

At the end of the two specially-drawn bookends (which are present in this collection) the lead Quintession derides the story as a feeble children's story. Great suble comment on the state of the US comic there, and you'd never be able to get away with that sort of inter-title criticism in this day and age!

The Quintessons, having not got the information they want from Wreck-Gar turn to their new plan. Their planet is dying and so they have decided to invade Cybertron and make it a new home. For this, they have despatched Quintesson General Ghyrik to Earth to capture Autobot City and lure Rodimus Prime into a trap. (A quick note, the Quintessons here are also the robotic creatures of the movie as well as the flying blobs, it makes a bit more sense this way actually, the blobs are their highest caste).

Taking over Autobot City, the Quintessons in a rather brutal move, crucify all the defeated Autobots on the wall for when Prime arrives, and using a wounded Arcee as bait, capture the Matrix.

Meanwhile the Decepticons are led into a Quintesson ambush. If nothing else, the Quintessons are seen to be very shrewd and very clever, far more dangerous than any of their other appearences in any Transformer media.

Of course Soundwave, who is leading the Decepticons, is no fool. He sends a false distress call to the Autobots in an attempt to get some re-enforcements, leading to a very cool team-up.

As a digression, Furman makes a very very odd choice in this. For some reason he uses Wheelie as a character, who goes off in a side-adventure with Wreck-Gar. Wheelie, who speaks only in rhyme and Wreck-Gar, who speaks only in cliches. It is very surreal and scares me a bit.

Back on Earth, Prime has been depowered to Hot Rod (as he was before he got the Matrix) but he is still resourceful as ever, and unleashed Metroplex, the living part of Autobot City. Metroplex is utterly HUGE as depicted in this, and this is perhaps his most impressive portrayal. Plus you can't help but love him (mine is currently stood on top of my television as I speak!).

The Quintessons aren't beaten yet though, Ghyrik uses the Matrix to give himself god-like power, which is depicted as him having a hoop around him, and I'm quite unsure as to how he actually used the Matrix. Who will win! (I think you can guess, but its not about the destination, its about the journey).

So there we have Space Pirates, its probably the weakest of the UK collections, but also has some stunning and brilliant moments in it, from the opening stories which in my opinion are some of the best ever, to the closing moments as Soundwave and Magnus share a 'moment'.

Some great writing, which sums up Transformers and the nature of war beautifully. And I am gay for Soundwave. (Not gay).


  1. I'm a big fan of the stories in the Space Pirates collection and that splash of Lee Sullivan's with Optimus standing over Megatron was tops.

    Such a shame that we got a good build up to the Ultra Magnus/Galvatron clash and it never happened.

  2. Snaptrap! Bring me THE PSYCHO PROBE!

  3. I love these reprints of the UK comics. Fantastic new covers on them too (I'd like posters of nearly all of them). For me it's only the live action movie/figures and reliving the greatness of the 80's Marvel UK Transformers (and some of the US stories, particularly Blaster Vs Straxus and everything that began when Furman took over) that keeps me at all interested in the franchise. A lot of the artwork mainly by Lee Sullvian and Geoff Senior still looks superb and the rest still holds some charm for me.